21 Jun 2016

How to Build Your Thought Leadership With Content Marketing

If I Google search “thought leadership,” the number one result that comes up is Denise Brosseau’s book Ready to Be A Thought Leader?. Her definition of a thought leader is:

“Thought Leaders are informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise.”

So often thought leaders are considered to be individuals or a singular person that represents a company. We come across this mindset all the time: marketers who feel that they need one person to be the ambassador for their brand. In reality, an entire company can become a thought leader in their respective industry.

After all, content marketing focuses on providing useful information. Whether it comes from one person or a team of individuals, as long as it is useful, that is what matters. For us basketball fans, we would compare this to the individual superstar, Michael Jordan, vs. the current “Strength in Numbers,” Golden State Warriors. Both effective as leaders, but they use multiple ways to achieve the same goal: winning.

Golden State Strength in Numbers

Source: Pinterest

If your brand is having difficulty with any of the below, you should consider content marketing as a strategy to boost your thought leadership.:

  • Building brand awareness
  • Building audience trust and loyalty
  • Driving conversions

The definition of content marketing is:

  1. To provide relevant and useful information to the customers without selling or interrupting them.
  2. To deliver information that makes your customers more informed before they buy, without selling or pitching them.
  3. To gain your prospects’ trust and loyalty, putting their needs first, and hopefully gaining their business in the long run.

That 3-part purpose to content marketing lends itself to building thought leadership. If brands can achieve the above consistently, they will be rewarded by their consumers.

Content Thought Leadership Examples

As individuals, Elon Musk and Neil Degrasse Tyson are considered thought leaders in their perspective industries. People consistently seek their information because they are well-respected for their opinions. Elon is considered an innovator, engineer, and a forward thinker. Tyson is a go-to source for all things science. By these two providing useful information, innately consumers will visit their blogs, websites, and social media pages to find content on engineering, innovation, and science.

As companies, brands such as American Express Open Forum and IBM are considered 2 out of the top 50 Brands successfully executing content marketing. Amex has effectively established themselves as small business experts. Open Forum has content such as A Simple Question That Can Help Get Sales Prospects to Sell to Themselves, and How Can You Network Effectively at This Year’s Small Business Expo. They have categorized their content by Planning for Growth, Managing Money, Getting Customers, and Building Your Team, which all touch on many different facets of being a small business owner.

These brands are consistently answering customer questions, answering their needs, and simply providing helpful, useful information that separates them from brands who haven’t adopted a content marketing philosophy. They have become leading thought leaders within their industry, the go-to source of authoritative information.

American Express Open Forum

Source: American Express Open Forum

Whether you are a brand or an individual, content can lead to thought leadership. Here are a few tips that you should keep in mind:

1. Speak clearly to a defined audience

It is imperative that you as a brand understand who you are communicating with. Your content should speak the language of the audience you are trying to reach. This sounds very obvious and elementary, but many brands – whether they are B2C and B2B in complex industries – forget that many of its customers may not use the same jargon.

For example, Wikipedia describes Tyson as an astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator. Since I am not a scientist, honestly I have no clue what that completely entails. However, Tyson does a great job on Twitter explaining complex scientific information in a way that I can understand, even doing so in a fun way. He understands who his audience is even if his job is complex.

2. Be consistent

As someone who loves a great drink and is learning how to make cocktails, I always appreciate it when I can find information on how to videos or the history of certain liquors. Lately, I have found that Liquor.com has great videos on the histories of spirits. Because I have now found the exact information I need multiple times, I am beginning to have some brand affinity towards Liquor.com, and I find myself more likely to join their community and buy into anything they create in the future.

As a brand, if you have the answer consistently you will gain brand trust and brand loyalty from your consumers.

Hubspot Inbound lead index

Source: Hubspot

To be able to reach your audience and become that trusted source, you must publish content consistently and frequently on a monthly basis. According to Hubspot, by publishing 9-15 blog articles a month, you can increase your inbound leads and inbound traffic. Companies that blog 15 or more times per month, get five times more site traffic than companies that don’t blog.

3. Be active on social media

Social media is such an effective avenue for thought leadership because it is considered a personal form of communication. In eMarketer’s 2016 US Digital Media Usage Study, which allows for a supreme opportunity to create personal brand connections with users.

Here are a few takeaways from a recent seminar by Jay Baer called You’re a Rock Star: Building Thought Leadership Through Social Networking Seminar:

  • Buyers of B2B products and services are twice involved in social media as the overall US population.
  • The most sure-fire way to be a social networking smash is to focus on adding value and being helpful.
  • Social media and social networks close the gap, enabling business and personal connections that would otherwise be unattainable.

DJ Khaled Snapchat

Source: Noisey

In 2015, hip-hop producer DJ Khaled found massive success through his Snapchat stories. He effectively provided inspiration to his audiences every day, while shedding light on his personal and business life. Coining phrases such as: “Major key,” “Bless up,” and “Walk with me through the journey of more success,” have drawn in his followers with the sheer positivity. As an already famous individual, just providing inspiration and opening up his everyday life can be considered useful and relevant content for his audience. By providing this content daily, he has now grown his followers above 6 million.  For Khaled, this has led to him partnering with brands like Ciroc, Fusion, and Apple Music, furthering his enterprise and attracting even more of an audience.

4. Focus on search engine optimization

For DJ Khaled, optimization may not be a priority – but for companies who frequently publish editorial content, it is extremely important to optimize all of your keywords and metadata before you hit publish. Thought leadership can only happen if users can actually find and read your content if you don’t already have a built in audience. See the below tips to ensure your blogs, videos, free guides, infographics, etc. are SEO friendly:

  • Have both internal and external links in your content
  • Optimize title and title tags (Approximately 70 characters)
  • Have a meta description (Approximately 140 characters)
  • Header tags (Only one H1 tag)
  • Optimize alt tags for images

Content marketing does take work and discipline. Be sure to consistently give relevant and useful information to your defined audience on all channels, including social. If you are successful at this, you or your brand will become the go-to answer as a thought leader in your industry.

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